Entrepreneur: Frankie Light

Tilt: Reactions to his polyglot talents

Scene: YouTube (280K)

Snack Bites: 

  • Inspired by YouTuber Moses McCormick speak close to 20 languages, Frankie Light learned Mandarin and Yiddish.
  • A collaboration with Arieh Smith – Black & White Guys Shock Chinese Hair Salon With Perfect Mandarin – brought over 100K new subscribers to Frankie’s fledgling channel.
  • Later, he learned Yiddish and surprised New York Orthodox Jews in a conversation.
  • Frankie’s first language other than English was sign language because his parents are deaf. 

Why We Stan: In a world of uncomfortable reaction videos, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the delight of others when they hear Frankie communicate in a language with which they’re familiar. It’s a cool way to bridge cultural divides. Inspired by a polyglot YouTuber, Frankie now inspires others to learn other languages through his content business.

The Story of Frankie Light

At first glance, Frankie Light’s videos may come across as just another YouTube account of a traveler speaking in the native tongue of his destinations. 

In fact, the online creator remains in his home city of New York, surprising bystanders by speaking foreign languages. 

In one of the US’s largest cultural melting pots, the Flatbush native orders takeout in Chinese, speaks Burmese to a waitress, and shocks Orthodox Jews with his Russian Yiddish

Experiences like this have made Frankie Light one of YouTube’s more notable polyglots – a social media star who speaks multiple languages. 

His first language other than English was sign language because his parents are deaf. Years later, Frankie learned more languages after watching Moses McCormick, a Black polyglot YouTuber from Ohio. Frankie thought, “If that guy can learn 50 languages, I can learn one,” he tells the New York Times.

He started this new hobby by learning one of the most complicated languages for English speakers to master: Mandarin. He mastered the language while working in a hair salon in Flushing Queens, where he started sweeping the floors and later advanced to the company’s marketing director. With help from the Duolingo app, he learned Yiddish. 

Using language to break down barriers 

After becoming fluent in Mandarin, Frankie Light connected with Arieh Smith, a.k.a. Xiaoma, to create the viral video Black & White Guys Shock Chinese Hair Salon With Perfect Mandarin.

Hosted on Arieh’s channel, the almost-12-minute video shows Chinese barbershop and shop owners’ responses to Frankie and Arieh, Black and white creators, speaking Mandarin. In the clip, the two shock, confuse, and even impress Chinese people on the streets of New York with their language skills. After going viral online, the 4.3M viewed clip brought 100K subscribers to Frankie’s page in a few months. 

YouTuber Frankie Light earned 100K subscribers after a collaboration with Arieh Smith. The video shows them speaking Mandarin, much to the surprise of the Chinese owners of barbershops. #Stan #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet

The young YouTuber can even hold his own when speaking to Orthodox Jews in Yiddish. Last December, Frankie took to the streets again to talk to Jewish Crown Heights Residents.

Residents admired Frankie’s trilingual speaking abilities and his tenacity to learn a language specific to their culture. Frankie’s fans noticed this as well, “As a Jew, I appreciate you learning one of our languages.” KittenAtheDisco wrote in the comment section. “Not many of us speak Yiddish, so someone outside of our community keeping it alive is fantastic.”

He also has incorporated sign language knowledge into his videos. Documented in a YouTube reel, Frankie asks two girls who are deaf what time it was, first in English and then in sign language. The two girls laugh and continue to converse with him in sign language. 

#FrankieLight is a polyglot YouTuber. His first language other than English? Sign language because his parents are deaf. #Stan #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

Frankie’s multilanguage knowledge helps bridge cultural divides, an impact not overlooked by the online world. “Commenters have praised him for ‘breaking down barriers’ and for his ‘universal message of inclusiveness and positivity,'” the Times wrote. “A fan who identified herself as a teacher in Cleveland wrote that she’d been showing his videos to her students. ‘The fact that they get to see other POC thriving, speaking other languages has been really cool.”

About the author

Shameyka McCalman is a wordsmith whose work often centers around fashion, art, and other creatives of color. She earned her communications degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston and enjoys sifting through clothes in local vintage shops, frequenting nearby plays, and gazing at exhibitions on view in museums.